California State Assembly Bill 1954 (AB 1954) has added a new law, California Business and Professions Code section 2228.5, which shields California physicians from Medical Board punishment for providing medical treatment to patients who merely test positive for THC or report medical cannabis use. Prior to the enactment of this new law, some physicians treating pain have denied treatment to patients who report using marijuana or test positive for marijuana by regarding such patients as ones who use illicit drugs and therefore have a substance use disorder.

The Medical Board of California has seemingly contradictory published guidance cautioning physicians against rendering pain care to such patients. Physicians have understandably reacted to a trend of increasing Board punishment of physicians for claimed missteps in providing pain treatment by denying care to such patients. Experts retained by the Medical Board of California may opine that a patient who tests positive for marijuana metabolites should be denied pain treatment because such a patient is using an illicit drug, actively abusing drugs, or is drug seeking. As such, a physician’s license to practice medicine may be placed in jeopardy by treating the pain of a patient who uses marijuana.

The new law further provides that a physician shall not automatically deny treatment to a patient who uses marijuana, unless the use of marijuana is “medically significant”. “Medically significant” factors that permit a physician to deny treatment include situations where the physician’s treatment would harm the patient if used in conjunction with THC or medical cannabis, the treatment would be ineffective, or the treatment is not clinically inappropriate.

Ray & Bishop, PLC, defends physicians who are accused of misconduct due to patient pain management care. If you are the subject of an investigation or accusation from the Medical Board due to medical care, contact Ray & Bishop for assistance.